As parents, we’re keenly aware of the difficulties our children struggle with and do our best to help them blend in with the rest of society. We know what happens when you don’t blend in. You get stares. Children ask questions, and instead of answering them the parents shush them, as if the act of noticing someone else is different is inherently naughty. The child’s question goes unanswered, and so the child stares. The parent looks everywhere but in your direction and ignores you and your child’s existence.
“…the “ableist” societal world-view is that the able-bodied are the norm in society, and that people who have disabilities must either strive to become that norm or should keep their distance from able-bodied people.” (1)
Is this the intent of the parent shushing their child? It’s doubtful. In the process of learning, children have a tendency to ask a lot of questions in public that aren’t appropriate public topics. The intent of the parent is likely good. Unfortunately, those good intentions send a specific message to the child. Disability is to be ignored. Do not try to understand why someone looks different. Leave the person that looks different alone (avoid them).
When your child is little, it’s unlikely they notice the stares and people looking anywhere but at them. However, as they get older they begin to notice. Have you ever been ignored at a party or family gathering by someone? It’s uncomfortable. Imagine if that happened on a much larger scale, everywhere you went. I can’t even imagine, as an able-bodied person, the amount of pain that would cause over 20, 30, or more years.
I’ve only recently become aware of the ableism movement. I’m confident there’s a lot to say on the subject I simply don’t know from a few hours of research. Please, I encourage you to comment and share what you know about this topic. I want to know more about this so we can increase awareness. Lack of knowledge on the topic is what spawns these inappropriate reactions. Increasing awareness is the only way to reduce the stigma associated with disability.
- Ableism. Wikipedia.org. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ableism. 27 Jul 2015.